By LELA TORGESEN WADE
I walked slowly toward home, through Grandfather’s orchard, savoring the warmth and sounds of early summer. It was so good to be young, and to have loving grandparents living about a quarter-mile from my house. Grandmother had fed me cookies and sent more with me for my little brother and sister.
Suddenly I froze. Something cold and wet had touched the back of my neck. Spinning around, heart pounding, I stared straight into the eyes of a dog that stood on all fours. I was twelve, but already five-and-a-half feet tall. The dog was solid white, twice as big as Hugo, our St. Bernard mix. It gazed into my eyes for a few moments, then suddenly vanished.
When I got over being too stunned to move, I ran the rest of the way home. I felt swelling inside me the urge to share this strange experience with someone, with everyone. But before I reached the house I had decided since I couldn’t explain it, probably nobody else could either. I tucked it away in a secret corner of my heart. Better not risk being laughed at, teased, or called a liar.
I grew up, married and moved hundreds of miles away from my family’s farm. But Dad was still raising cattle. He and Mom still had my little sister at home with them. Our brother Bill was away at college.
Mom and I exchanged letters often. She shared stories of the stray dogs and cats that showed up now and then, adopting our family of animal lovers. Grandmother wrote me too. She was very lonely after Grandfather died.
One day I received a letter from Mom that brought back with a jolt something I hadn’t thought about for years. It said:
Your dad had a very strange encounter last night. He told us at breakfast this morning that Spook and Pete woke him around midnight with their insistent barking. He hurried into his clothes and boots, tiptoed to the kitchen window and peered out. The night was moonless and misty. In front of the barn, about 20 feet away, he noticed movement. Something about the size and shape of a yearling calf. Grabbing his flashlight, cussing the critter under his breath for somehow escaping through the pasture fence, he quietly made his way toward it. From about eight feet away he trained the flashlight beam on the animal. It turned its head toward him. It was a huge white dog. They stared at each other for a few seconds, then the dog disappeared.
I answered her letter that same day, revealing my own experience with a white dog. Now added to the mystery was the fact that at least twelve years had passed since I saw what surely must be the same dog.
Many more years followed. I was divorced and living in the house I’d had built on the land Dad gave me. My sister came over one afternoon. We had become close since I’d moved back, sharing memories.
As we sat on the porch sipping Cokes she said, Bill and I were talking a couple of days ago, reliving our childhood adventures. I mentioned the enormous white dog that you and Dad had both seen, telling him I’d been disappointed that it never showed itself to me. I said, “Where do you suppose it came from, and why?”
He was silent for a time, looking puzzled. Then he said, “I saw that dog one time, a couple of years ago. I never knew Sis had seen it too. I was away at college when Dad saw it, and Mom told me about that. I was walking in the woods behind Grandmother’s house after she died and I had moved there. Suddenly I knew I was being watched. I turned my head and saw a white dog as big as a cow. I got a good look at it, then it just slowly evaporated. I know that had to be at least ten years after Dad saw it. Dogs can’t live twenty-five or thirty years, can they?”
–Growing up in a literary-minded family, Lela Torgesen Wade always loved reading and writing. They lived on a large cattle farm. Her maternal grandfather often quoted their cousin Mark Twain, with whom he shared the same brand of humor. Lela is an active member of four patriotic lineage societies. Some of her ancestors have been traced to the early 1600s in France and the 1500s in Norway, so she has lots of characters in her background from whom she gets story ideas. Six of her stories are published in the books River of Words, Vol 2 and For the Love of Words, both by Clarkesville Writers Society. Another appears in the magazine A Habersham Christmas, 2019 edited by Creative Habersham.